Monday, November 27, 2023

One day left on the TMNT RPG kickstarter...!

It seems clear that the campaign isn't in need of a signal boost from a tiny corner of the internet like mine...but it's still probably worth pointing out here that Palladium's Kickstarter for the new edition of their classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness RPG is down to about a day to go.  The effort has blown way, WAY past its $250,000 goal.  I mean, I guess it was obvious that this was gonna be a big one.

I didn't go in as high as I could...or even all that high, I suppose, relative to the pledges that show up on some of these tabletop Kickstarters...but I am pretty sure that this marks the most I've ever committed to a crowdfunded gaming product.  I couldn't resist at least adding on the good guy minis.  Or maybe I just didn't want to resist.

Getting hyped up for this makes me want to revisit some of the Action Anthro stuff I've occasionally touched upon here.  For's a 4d20 table to help create your crime-fighting team.

Or maybe it's time to create a little strike team for S.L.O.P.

Here's one.

His name is Kevin.


What?  Oh, no, it's Kevin Bachman.

Yeah, you don't want to make that other joke around Kevin...

Arrow points toward Kevin's badass S.L.O.P. tattoo.  Also, make sure to check out PeterBearFR's DeviantArt page, where I stole that awesome pig solder art from...and of course let me know if my theft is unappreciated and needs to be corrected.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

More evidence that Orcs revel in physical pain

NOTE:  This post is related to my exploration of the Fantaspora Hypothesis, a proposed explanation for the existence of similar humanoid species in countless fantasy settings.  The Fantaspora Hypothesis is a proposal that fantasy humanoids originated on our Earth as hominins that coexisted during the Paleolithic Era.  Because the description of humanoid species has been a much-debated point of potential racism in roleplaying games (indeed, they are often called races), and because many (perhaps most) modern humans have DNA indicating a hereditary relationship with actual archaic hominins, I'm afraid there could be stuff that comes across as offensive to some without my even realizing it.  If this is the case, I ask that you please don't assume ill intent, that you let me know, and that you give me a chance to think about it and make corrections as needed.  Thank you!

A Paleolithic Orc family unit

Background:  SCN9A is a gene that has been investigated for its impact on pain sensitivity in humans.  SCN9A encodes a sodium channel, which points to a potential (no pun intended) role in the transmission of nerve impulses.

A few years ago, an Orc variant of the gene (with three specific differences in sequence) was associated with higher pain sensitivity in data from hundreds of thousands of modern humans of British ancestry.

In other words, those of us who have this Orc gene feel more pain.

Find the full paper HERE.

What's new:  Researchers have experimentally connected the presence of the Orc sequence variants with a specific type of pain sensitivity in a set of Latin American Human subjects.  After sensitization with mustard oil, those with the Orc gene had a lower threshold for mechanical pain.

What it all means:  There are a few interesting takeaways from all of this.  One is that, while Orcs apparently evolved in Eurasia, these specific changes in DNA have been maintained most strongly in Humans with Native American ancestry.  Why is this?  Well, the jury's still out.  It does, however, appear that the presence of these genes in modern Humans is the result of mixing of earlier Orc and Human populations, and that they are not simply maintained from the time before Humans and Orcs split evolutionarily.

Orcs may have a higher sensitivity to mechanical pain.  Interestingly, this is the sort of pain that one could imagine would be most common in battle - the pain of being poked with things (vs. pain from heat or pressure).  Why this has occurred is yet to be determined, but the idea that Orcs may charge into battle ready to revel in...and perhaps even be motivated by...the pain that awaits them...well, this isn't too hard to believe, is it?

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Remembering Keith Giffen, 1952-2023

One of the creators most influential to my appreciation of superhero comics passed away this week, as the world lost Keith Giffen on Monday 10/9.  I first saw this on Bleeding Cool News, and it seems as if Rich Johnston may have been the first to report on it there.  Giffen is the creator of Ambush Bug and co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, and Jaime Reyes.  Most crucially, Giffen had an unforgettable run taking the Justice League into uncharted territory during the Justice League International era, following the Legends crossover series.

Giffen at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2019, by John Manard, CC-BY-SA 2.0

In true BWAHAHAHA fashion, Giffen's family posted this to his Facebook page at his request:

What a blessing to be able to know this man's work.

The Justice League comics of Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, et al., are among the most beloved stories of my formative years as a fan of comic book superheroes.  While I was familiar with the Super Friends and aware that the JL of decades past had featured the heaviest hitters of the DC universe, as far as I knew, the Justice League was meant to be this ragtag band of misfits (to use a cliché) that struggled, argued, and threw out quip after quip while fighting the bad guys.  I can still remember purchasing Justice League #3 on a family trip and being carried away by it in the event that could easily be seen as a starting point for my existence as a comic book lifer.

Mr. Giffen was one of...if not THE...first comic book writer(s) whose name I actually knew.  His genius will live on through his creations and through the remarkable characterization he helped to give to the creations of many others.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Fantaspora Hypothesis

In my mundane life...meaning when I am not adventuring over a tabletop, or in my head, or maybe even out in the real world...I am a scientist.  Thus, when I think about fantastic settings, I tend to think about them in a way that's...well, I hesitate to call it scientific, but we could probably go with sciencey.

Couple this with one of my favorite conceits in fantasy tabletop gaming - that all worlds are connected and reachable from our own Earth - and a lot of how and why questions immediately present themselves.  Why are humans everywhere?  How do they even share some aspects of Earth culture, but clearly not all?  What about all these near-human species that also tend to show up a lot, sometimes with slight differences from the equivalent species on another world?  Etc.

The way I currently see it, there are a few broad categories of explanations here.

From Pixabay

First of all, these fantasy worlds might have come about in a way that was simply influenced by generic Western fantasy.  I think that Codehaven (C0d3H4v3n), from my hopefully-not-abandoned effort, is an example that leans this way a bit.  Somehow, through existence in a computer, or in a pocket universe created by a human, or...uh, something else, probably...the fantasy world has taken on clichés associated with fictional fantasy settings in our world.

Second - and this one can be connected to that first explanation - the fantasy world(s) might be an actual creation of the human mind in some way.  Here, I'm thinking of some stories that feature characters who find themselves in a realm they previously believed to be fictional.  The old D&D cartoon might fit this...or maybe something like the Japanese predecessor to Super Mario Bros. 2, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, in which a family gets pulled into the fantastic environment of a book.

I guess the thing that differentiates this from the first category is that something like a fantasy world in a computer probably has an origin story that involves specific programming, and some rogue code, and maybe a magical event to fully set things in motion...while this second idea is more along the lines of consciousness and imagination creating reality by their own power.  It's really all connected, though.  Or, at least, it can be.  A high fantasy writer who wakes up to find themselves in a world of their own creation kind of fits both models.

Finally - and this is the one where I get to be extra sciencey - maybe the people and societies of all of these worlds actually branched off from the same original lineage.

I really like this one.  It's possible that some of the roots of my obsession(?) with it can be traced to the notion in DC Comics that ancient Atlanteans are connected not only to the Warlord's home of Skartaris, but possibly also to current (or near-current) populations of Kryptonians, Rannians, and Thanagarians.  I even worked some details of this idea into the very background of the Paleolithic adventure I ran a couple of years ago (in the overarching potential headcanon, at least).  And really...connecting Atlantis-type mythology, our interactions with other ancient human species, and the potential for plane-hopping adventures...well, that's all pretty much in my wheelhouse!

I call it the Fantasy Diaspora - or Fantaspora - Hypothesis...a proposal that the many interconnected fantasy worlds of our fiction and gaming are populated by descendants of ancient inhabitants from our very own Earth.  It sounds awfully pretentious, and it's probably been done before, and I love it.

As always, hopefully more to come...

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Department of Monstrous Matters

Hmm.  I'm thinking about trying to give this blog more of an identity.  Something beyond "whatever I'm obsessing about at the moment."  Which, I suppose, is the beauty of a personal blog.  But...well, I wonder if a default focus might help to keep me more...well, focused...?  Hmm again.

Anyway, this is an idea that I've thrown around in my head for years...and am playing with for inspiration now...

Dragon head icon by Faithtoken, licensed via CC BY 3.0

Hopefully more to come...

Sunday, July 23, 2023

5E Kamigawa NEO by /u/letterephesus is incredible

In thinking about the little project I'm working(?) on over at PermaDeath.Net, one of the commercial game settings I'm undoubtedly drawing on as I imagine the Asciiverse is the world presented in last year's MTG set Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.  I have very fond memories of the original Kamigawa Block; it came at one of the highest points of my involvement in organized MTG, and in some ways it shows the early stages of the designers' approach to worldbuilding in which they take a theme and work out what an MTG world - that is, somewhat fantasy based with a nod to the color pie that defines MTG's ethics and magic - based upon that theme would look like.

In this case, the focus was Japanese mythology, history, and religion, and I really dug the flavor.  I've no doubt there are some Orientalist overtones...or at least undertones...but it was still a series of three sets (an old MTG block) with a setting that I enjoyed and hoped to go back to.  When the return to the plane was announced, and I realized that it was getting a cyberpunk update, I knew we were probably in for something pretty cool.

Now that I'm pondering a setting that shares some of the same thematic DNA, I'm even more drawn to some of the imagery from the set that hints at its fantasy + cyberpunk roots.  So, I figured I'd take a quick look and see what's out there as far as 5E interpretations of Kamigawa in the NEO era.

And...well, holy cow, I don't know that I need to look any farther than the first one that popped up for me.  Gabe Rodriguez, aka /u/letterephesus on Reddit, has shared his take on Neon Dynasty, and it's awesome.  The book he put together could be used to run a spectacular campaign in this techno-fantasy realm and is a lot of fun to just jump around and read through.

The direct GMBinder link is HERE, and I hope that if you follow it, you also take a moment to look at some of Gabe's other work either via the Reddit thread where this book was shared or his Patreon.  (And if anyone thinks I shouldn't link directly from here, please just let me know and I'll correct it.)  Turns out he's covered a number of MTG settings that haven't (yet?) gotten the official treatment from WotC with his patron supported effort Planeshifted...from what I can see, there could be hours of entertainment just browsing through the work he's done.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Journey with me into the Asciiverse!


When you have one oft-neglected geek blog, what's the best way to build up momentum?  Why, start working on a completely different blog, of course!

With quite a bit of outside help, I'm finally taking some time to detail the "retrocyberdungeonpunk" setting I wrote a little about way back when.  There's just a tiny "team" plugging away at it, but the first few posts have gone up quickly, and it's been a lot of fun to think about and work on.

The high concept/cliché is a world Inside a Computer System, obviously influenced by TRON, but also taking cues from classic ASCII-based roguelike games and fantasy gaming in general (e.g., of course, D&D).  I know the premise isn't too far from the old Fantasy Flight d20 game Virtual, but I hope there's enough ground to cover that the repeated elements can simply be seen as a tribute to that game (which is very cool and which I recommend checking out, btw).

At any rate, please head over to PermaDeath.Net if you'd like to see what's being built.  Hope to keep adding more on the regular...!

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Average Joes #1: Joel Embiid

A somewhat random thought that struck me lately:  We, as humans in an ostensibly civilized society, sure spend a lot of time and energy trying to determine if we're normal...and if we're not, if we fall into a band of abnormality that's deemed "good" or at the very least "not bad."

Those of us who spend more time than we probably should thinking about RPG stats often encounter the question of what "normal" really means.  What are normal stats for a human?  Is normal the same as average?  Where do we want our PCs to fall on the spectrum of normality, and how do the rules support that implication?

I have become a fan of the notion that, in class-based RPGs like D&D, most regular/normal/average folks can be described without class levels.  Gaining levels in a class is something reserved for the outstanding among us...or for those who satisfy a more metaphysical measure of ability to drive the narrative of the universe.  The difference between a human with class levels and one without can become a very subjective distinction, not based on intrinsic capability but on importance to the story currently being told.

Now, this is the part of the blog post where I start the pivot into just talking about one of my toys.

Okay, so the NBA season ended just a couple of weeks ago, with the Denver Nuggets taking their first-ever title after defeating the Miami Heat at home.  Now, sports in general, and perhaps basketball in particular, lend themselves to assessments of good/better/best.  There's a lot of talk right now about how Finals MVP Nikola Jokic stacks up against the best to ever play the game.  And during the regular season, there was a lot of talk about how Jokic stacks up against the other "best" players currently in the league, specifically Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid (whose likeness is pictured above).

Jokic was the league's regular-season MVP the past two seasons.  The two years before that, it was Giannis.  And this year, it was Embiid.  Some pundits seemed to believe that Joel took the title this year just because it was his "turn," and that he wasn't necessarily better than Jokic or Giannis.  And really, it kinda seemed like it could be any of those three players, and no one could argue too much.

BUT...everyone loves to talk about how the MVP is a regular-season award, and most basketball fans look to the postseason for that extra factor that separates the great from the very good.  Jokic absolutely killed it this postseason.  And Embiid, while he had his moments, ultimately didn't demonstrate next-level greatness in the minds of most fans.  As someone who has slowly, and somewhat inadvertently, found myself becoming more and more of a Philadelphia sports fan (the 76ers especially) now that I live in Jersey, I disliked this for multiple reasons.  I wanted the Sixers to win, for one.  And Embiid has become one of my favorite players, so I especially didn't enjoy the immediate dismissal of his abilities by so many people when the team was eliminated by the Celtics.

Now...for an RPG, is Joel Embiid a normal human?  I mean...clearly he is not normal physically.  He's seven feet tall and extremely gifted athletically.  And clearly his presence and actions are more notable to the world at large than they are for most of us regular folks.  If he stepped into a D&D world, would he need class levels to highlight how awesome he is?  Or can he just be a guy with a Background, like you and me...but with some pretty impressive STR and DEX, no doubt.

Seriously, I'm getting to the toy part...

A little while back, spurred in part by my recently renewed interest in 3 3/4" action figures, I couldn't resist picking up this Joel Embiid ReAction Figure from Super7.

I had heard that these figures were intended to be properly sized for the scale they're in...and since the 3 3/4" scale typically defaults to 1:18 - but those don't really match up perfectly - I wanted to see how tall they made a seven foot dude.

First, a note...the figure unfortunately came with one leg a bit longer than the other, which I'm pretty sure isn't a reflection of Joel's actual anatomy.  I am definitely a ReAction figure apologist when it comes to folks' complaints about their limited articulation in a world where we often expect much more.  BUT...these things are at a price point where I would hope QC issues like this would be minimal.  Anyway, I'm not complaining (too much), but definitely noting it.

From the bottom of the sole of his right shoe (on the longer leg) to the point where I think the top of his head would be, he's about 4 3/16".  If I go with an even 7' for his height, that puts the scale of the figure at about 1:20.  FWIW, at this scale, a 3.75" figure would be about 6'3", which probably isn't too far off for some of the physically imposing characters that have been turned into figures at this standard scale...and in some cases may be a bit low (I'm looking at you, Roadblock).  And at the very least, it's as good as calling the scale 1:18, which would put a 3.75" guy at under 5'8"...for most characters, not ridiculous but not particularly close either.

In the end, I suppose the best case scenario may have been just to have always had this classic action figure scale at "true" 1:18, with 4"=5' and no worrying about "close enough."  Thanks to some combination of Micronauts, Adventure People, Star Wars, and maybe a few others, though, that just isn't the way history was written, and action figure scales are a bit quirkier and maybe even more fun because of it.

Oh what about all that talk about what it means to be average...?  Well, obviously I've gotta stat Joel out for gaming, but I'm not sure if it's fair to just make him a regular guy.  I know his recent detractors would agree with that decision after his less-than-transcendent playoff run. least one former NBA MVP has gone on to superheroic adventures...and truly, Embiid is a unicorn of physical maybe it's selling him short to stop at a Background.

For now, I'm going to let Mr. Embiid be the first step in what I hope will be a number of small explorations of being average...or normal...or a D&D-statted world.  I've seen that it actually works in gaming...and would like to try rolling with regular folks in 5E-based pickup games more often.

One thing, though...if I use the Elite Athlete Background I posted on here a while back (and of course I'm going to!), I think I've gotta give him at least one extra proficiency just to make sure he's covered as far as communications go.  Apparently he's fluent in 3-5 different languages...!

Joel Embiid

Human, Elite Athlete (Basketball)

STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
18(+4)    16(+3)    15(+2)    15(+2)     12(+1)     12(+1)
HP 7 (1d8+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +6 melee, +5 ranged
Skills:  Athletics, Perception
Tools:  Weights, Basketball Equipment
Languages: Basaa, French, English, plus a couple more...?
Saves:  None
Weapons:  None
Armor:  None

(This is who Joel's looking at up there, btw...)

(Not gonna turn down that chance to show off my vintage Crimson Guard figure...)

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Cobra Trooper Week Part III - Hat Trick!

Finally rounding out the Cobra fireteam that I displayed about a week and a half ago, here's a tough guy from north of the border...

Hat Trick

Cobra Trooper 

Carter Fitzpatrick
Code Name:  Hat Trick
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialties:  Sabotage, Self-Defense Instructor
Birthplace:  Blainville, Quebec, Canada

Class:  Soldier 1
Background:  Elite Athlete (Ice Hockey)
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
14(+2)    10(--)     14(+2)     8(-1)       8(-1)      9(-1)
HP 10 (1d10+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +4 melee, +2 ranged
Skills:  Athletics, Intimidation, Demolitions, Insight
Tools:  Weights, Hockey Equipment, Land Vehicles
Languages: English, French
Saves:  Strength, Constitution
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Legend in This Town:  Has achieved some fame as an athlete and can sometimes leverage this to his advantage.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Hat Trick has always loved one thing more than anything else in the world: fighting.  Hockey is second.  Beer is third.  He's pretty good at all of them.

On the ice, Hat Trick consistently showed enough skill to garner the attention of pro scouts and was signed to a minor league contract.  Most of his time as a professional, however, was spent as an enforcer, and his fists got a lot more use than his stick.

While playing for a team in Manitoba, Hat Trick had an exceptionally good offensive performance one night, scoring three goals in a road game vs. the Springfield Blades.  Just behind the team's bench, three Dreadnoks happened to be in attendance, cursing his every move on the ice as it worked against the big money they had bet on the Blades.

When they confronted him after the game, Hat Trick made short work of all three of them.  A Cobra recruiter accompanying them was both entertained and impressed enough to convince Hat Trick to join his team for a chance at a real payday.  So far, he has worked to train other Cobra recruits in his scrapping style.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Cobra Trooper Week Part II - Apostle!

Part of my first Cobra fireteam with Blast Beat, Apostle is an original '83/'84 swivel-arm Cobra soldier that ended up in my collection as a kid.  I word it this way because I really don't remember getting it...I had an original '82 straight-arm version, and then somehow over the course of my G.I. Joe playing career, this guy ended up among the rest of my figures.  Maybe it was given to me?  A friend's figure that got mixed up with mine, and then was never requested back because it's such a minor character?  Maybe I traded for it?  A sign of my age, I suppose...I truly don't recall.  But I could probably be convinced that I remember any of those scenarios.

As a true old-school trooper, this seemed like a great figure to take on the Acolyte background from 5E.  As the only background put into the original 5E SRD (meant to serve as an example for others' work), I think it's also the only one that made it into the rules that Wizards of the Coast released this year under a Creative Commons license.  It just felt like a good match with an original figure.


Cobra Trooper 

Josiah Bell
Code Name:  Apostle
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialty:  Sabotage
Birthplace:  Scottsboro, Alabama
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Acolyte
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
11(--)    10(--)     16(+3)     11(--)     10(--)     17(+3)
HP 16 (2d10+6)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +2 melee, +2 ranged
Skills:  Insight, Religion, Animal Handling, Demolitions
Tools:  Land Vehicles
Languages: English, Spanish, Hebrew, Aramaic
Saves:  Strength, Constitution

Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms (expertise), heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Shelter of the Faithful:  May receive assistance from those who share his faith.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Specialty:  Two-Handed Small Arms

Apostle grew up attending a snake-handling church in the rural American South.  Upon being introduced to the more esoteric teachings of Golobulus and the Cobra-La, he began to syncretize the two belief systems and ultimately found his way to Cobra as a religiously devoted recruit.

While not the most skilled of warriors, Apostle's belief that his work for Cobra is in service to a higher cause makes him a most formidable enemy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

It's Cobra Trooper Week! Here's Blast Beat...

I guess it's a little lame to "start" Cobra Trooper Week on a Wednesday evening...but better late than never...?

Anyway, this guy's from the G.I. Joe Retro Collection Cobra Officer & Cobra Trooper 2-Pack.  I am pleased with the purchase, but I'm not the most discerning action figure fan.  If you're interested, I'd say check out some of the reviews out there, like THIS excellent one from the forums.

Blast Beat

Cobra Trooper 

Bjørn Thorsen
Code Name:  Blast Beat
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialties:  Sabotage, Heavy Weapons
Birthplace:  Strømmen, Norway
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Musician
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
12(+1)    18(+4)     10(--)     14(+2)     7(-2)     15(+2)
HP 11 (2d10)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +3 melee, +6 ranged
Skills:  Performance, Intimidation, Demolitions, History
Tools:  Drums, Bass Guitar, Land Vehicles
Languages: Norwegian, English
Saves:  Strength, Dexterity
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons (expertise), super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Always on Tour:  Can usually secure food and lodging in exchange for performing.  Sometimes recognized by fans who are willing to provide more assistance in his efforts.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Specialty:  Heavy Weapons

Blast Beat spent his youth taking every opportunity he could to travel into Oslo to check out the music scene, being especially attracted to the most extreme metal acts he could find.  In high school, he began drumming with friends in the band Nuclear Funeral.  They were a death metal band.  Or maybe a black metal band.  They weren't really into labels.  Or Satan.  But they did love loud sounds, explosive rhythms, and controlled chaos.

While Nuclear Funeral never achieved much fame outside of the local metal scene, Blast Beat's skill behind the drumkit was unmatched by most other musicians.  One night after a show, he was approached by a Cobra recruiter who felt that there had to be a use for the exceptional dexterity, hand speed, rhythm, and muscle memory demonstrated by Blast Beat.  With the promise of a steady income and the chance to blow a lot of shit up, he was soon on the Cobra payroll.

Blast Beat still likes to drum (and play bass!) whenever he gets the chance and occasionally considers returning to the life of a musician.  His dream is to one day share a stage with Cold Slither, the Misfits, and the Misfits.


(I used the Metal Band Name Generator found HERE, btw, to decide on "Nuclear Funeral"...)

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Coming up: Cobra Trooper Week!

The momentum of attention on the internet is a really interesting phenomenon...all those little incidental details and quirks that cause one idea to fall by the wayside while another goes viral.  I've drifted in and out of Reddit participation over the past few years, and I see things all the time that just make me...wonder.  I'll dig a little deeper into a subreddit and find a great post that leaves me thinking, "Wait, why am I just the third person to upvote this?"  And then some stuff, for whatever reason, just takes off.

"Takes off" would be a bit of an overstatement for what I'm transitioning into talking about, but the sentiment applies here.  The G.I. Joe subreddit is one of the main ones I visit these days, and I've posted a couple of things there.  I recently started what is almost certainly one of the lowest-effort threads I've ever initiated on Reddit - some pictures of my Cobra Trooper action figures with their code names - and it probably got the biggest reaction of anything I've posted.  I mean, I had definitely noticed that the denizens of the sub (a very friendly place, btw!) often just like to see pictures of toys.  Which is understandable.  It's a sub about toys.  But still...I was surprised.  The most groundbreaking aspect of the post is that one of the guys is holding a hockey stick.  So...not groundbreaking.

Blast Beat, Apostle, and Hat Trick

At any rate, I certainly ain't complaining, and it's inspired me to try and make this upcoming week officially Cobra Trooper Week here at Monstrous Matters.  I need to get some character backstories and game stats down on digital paper, and this is a great chance to do it!

I hope you'll join me.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Looking for thoughts on abilities for a 5e combat leader!

For the next little stone in the wall that is my effort to put together a set of rules with which to play with my 3.75-inch toy soldiers, I'd really like to nail down a Commander class.  (Appropriate that I used a wall as a metaphor for one of my hobby endeavors?  Maybe...)  I did a little rundown of the classes I want to start with HERE...for reference, I'm looking for a Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, and Ninja.  Today, I shall speak of the Commander.  Also, as fair warning, I'm about to ramble...there's a TL;DR in italics below...

I think a Commander class is important for a few reasons.  First, I simply believe it's a fairly critical archetype in the genre, so that the roles of characters like Hawk, Duke, and Cobra Commander are covered.  I also think enough games have included a battlefield leader role that its utility and (ideally) fun are pretty well established.  I'm thinking specifically about classes from the D&D 3.5 Miniatures Handbook and the 5E-based modern ruleset Ultramodern5, both of which include a Marshal.

Finally, I really want to have a class that can be used to level up the leader of a warband over the course of a toygaming campaign, and adding to their leadership capabilities seems like an appropriate way to go about it.  The Miniatures Handbook, once again, had this slot filled by the Warlord class, which was a super-simple prestige class that really only applied to miniatures campaigns.  A level in Warlord, if memory serves, gives a character +1 to attack bonus, +1 to Commander rating (a value specific to the miniatures rules), and either +10 HP or +5 HP and an extra use of a spell.

I want the classes in this game to remain fairly simple anyway, so why not have a Commander class that does something similar, enabling quick-n-easy leveling in between battles, while also serving as one of the core classes?

One approach that seems to work is to give a battlefield leader the ability to impact combat simply by being among the troops.  The 3.5 Marshal has auras that grant bonuses to other troops, and the Ultramodern5 Marshal gets Command Presence abilities.  This is probably the way to go, although the direction I'm leaning is to give Commanders a small set of "commands" they can give with an action (or maybe bonus action), with a successful roll having the selected effect on the battlefield.  I'm thinking of things along the lines of Bardic Inspiration, but with a chance of failure, and possibly the ability to attempt one every round.

If these scale with a character's level in the Commander class, then advancement in power along with advancement in levels may take care of itself without even having to add abilities as the character progresses.  I suppose that might go against the intentions of "bounded accuracy" as it's built into 5E, but I really like the simplicity of it.  Players can know that all Commanders are able to try X, Y, or Z each round, and the magnitude of the effect is connected to level.  Nice and straightforward.

Oh!  And I do have plans to incorporate a sort of Commander rating into the activation mechanic of the game, so having that increase with Commander level, as it does with the Miniatures Handbook's Warlord, will also be a benefit for campaign play.

Okay.  So that's where my question for you comes in, my friends.  What are the key abilities that should be built into a Commander?  What is that X, Y, or Z that they can attempt each round?  A choice of bonuses to grant to those around them?  Handing out extra actions?  Extra HP?  Should they be able to choose different difficulty classes to have differing magnitudes of effect?  Should it just be simplified such that all abilities use the same target number?

Are you still reading?  Well...thank you!  For the rest of you, here's the...

TL;DR   I'm putting together a very simple Commander class for an action figure battling game based upon D&D 5E.  I'd like to give them (around) three different actions that they can attempt each round of combat, with successes granting boons to allies on the battlefield.  These abilities will scale with the Commander's level and should be simple and iconic enough that they can be easily remembered as the standard traits of a Commander.  I'm open to any and all suggestions as to what seems fun and fair!

Thanks for reading all this, or even skimming to this sentence...and please let me know if you have any thoughts!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

So, what are the G.I. Joe classes I'm looking for, exactly?

It's about time I put pen to paper in sketching out this game I have dancing around in my head, in which I get to play out scenarios with my 3.75-inch action figures.  G.I. Joe is a clear focal point for the first iteration of the rules, and I want to use D&D 5E as the mechanical skeleton.  So what classes do I need to include to make sure I have a complete enough base for the game?

Well, I have to start with the class that may just do the most work for me, the Soldier.  I outlined my take on it for this purpose in a post HERE, and my first crack at a character of the class is in a post HERE.

And then there are the drivers.  Part of the beauty of the 3.75-inch scale has always been the production of vehicles in scale, and the various operators of said vehicles are kind of a class in themselves.  Sometimes, of course, it may make sense to treat the drivers as soldiers with a specialty...


...but sometimes there are drivers who really have no need to be treated as soldiers...

Also from

And of course, at some point my Joe figures are going to have to cross over with M.A.S.K., CHiPs, the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, Dom Toretto and family, etc.  So...I think a Driver class is certainly in order.

What about medics?  Hmm.  It could be argued that some sort of specialist class could cover this and all sorts of other skill- and tool-based roles.  The healer, though, is sort of a tradition in these types of games, so I do like the idea of keeping it separate.  Maybe I could even take a route like the one explored in Ultramodern5, where medical skills are "game-ified" a bit by making some of them function kind of like spells.  Okay...Doc,'re Medics.

Oh yeah, and Scientists!  That's what I do, so I'm biased.  Maybe I'm the same class as Dr. Mindbender...?

This may be getting out of hand.  I'll ignore other sorts of specialists until it becomes vital, and that still leaves a couple that should probably be included.

The Miniatures Handbook is a D&D 3.5 supplement that I've always really enjoyed and which is a big inspiration on what I'm trying to do with this game.  The Marshal and super-simplified miniatures-campaign-only Warlord classes (plus the 4E Warlord) are worth looking at for inspiration on some sort of Commander class.

And of course, this is G.I. Joe.  So there have to be Ninja.  Or Ninjas.  Have never been sure which to write for that in plural form.

Yep, you guess it... from

Alright...that leaves me with Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, Ninja.  That's very doable.  Time to get cracking.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A file card for Gearhead...

I'm still planning to stat out Gearhead for gaming, but it's taking me a minute to settle on exactly how to handle driver types in the game.

You know what I can do, though?  Make a file card!

(The Filecard Creator can be accessed HERE and is a lot of fun.  Let me know if you know of alternatives, as I'd love to try them out.  FWIW, this one's really easy to use and was clearly made by someone - or multiple someones - who really enjoy(s) the property!)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

I had Bard and ChatGPT fill in the backstory for my kitbashed G.I. Joe character. This is what they gave me.

This past weekend, I took a little time to put together a "new" G.I. Joe character from pieces of some of my childhood figures.  A little work with a screwdriver and a bit of sloppy paint later, and I had this guy:

Naturally, I wanted to figure out the story behind this new Joe.  Something about the goggles and gloves...or maybe it has a little bit to do with the fact that his head (from Breaker) is the same mold that was used for Clutch...had me thinking he's a driver/mechanic type.

Then, I did what makes the most sense to do in April 2023 when you'd like a character backstory:  I asked a computer.

I started with Google's new chatbot Bard, with a simple request:

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

And Bard, true to its programming, delivered quickly (bolding by me, btw)...

Sure, here is a GI Joe character I came up with:

Code Name: Wheels

Real Name: Robert "Bob" Smith

Occupation: Driver and Mechanic

Nationality: American

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 190 lbs

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

Backstory: Bob Smith was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest. He was always fascinated by cars and trucks, and he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a mechanic. After high school, he went to trade school and became a certified mechanic. He then got a job at a local garage, where he worked for several years.

One day, Bob was approached by the GI Joe team. They were looking for a skilled mechanic to join their team, and they were impressed with Bob's skills and experience. Bob accepted the offer, and he has been a member of the GI Joe team ever since.

Bob is a valuable member of the GI Joe team. He is a skilled mechanic, and he is always willing to help out his fellow teammates. He is also a brave and courageous soldier, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

Bob's code name, "Wheels," is a reference to his love of cars and trucks. He is always seen driving around in one of the GI Joe team's vehicles, and he is always up for a race.

Bob is a great friend, a loyal teammate, and a skilled mechanic. He is a valuable asset to the GI Joe team, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

All right!  Wheels.  Not terrible.  Not terribly clever, but not terrible.  A solid first effort for a bot that may or may not have ever been tasked with creating a Joe.  I's a pretty straightforward origin story, so Bard probably hadn't put a lot of thought into it until that very moment.

Let's see how its more famous colleague ChatGPT fared...

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

Code Name: Gearhead

Profile: Gearhead is the ultimate driver and mechanic for the GI Joe team. His real name is Jack Riley and he hails from a small town in the Midwest. He's always been fascinated by cars and mechanics, tinkering with engines and machines from a young age.

After completing his mechanical engineering degree, Jack joined the army and quickly made a name for himself as a skilled driver and mechanic. He was soon recruited by the GI Joe team for his expertise and passion for all things automotive.

Special Skills: Gearhead is a master of all types of vehicles, from tanks and helicopters to motorcycles and speedboats. He can fix any mechanical problem on the fly, and his driving skills are unmatched. He's also an expert in demolitions and can rig explosive devices with precision.

Gear: Gearhead's signature vehicle is a custom-built, heavily armed jeep that he personally designed and assembled. It's equipped with an array of weapons and gadgets, including a missile launcher, smoke screen, and night vision system.

Personality: Gearhead is known for his cool demeanor under pressure and his unwavering dedication to the mission. He's always eager to get behind the wheel and take on any challenge, no matter how dangerous. He's also fiercely loyal to his fellow Joes and will stop at nothing to protect them.

Okay, so not sure if many folks are going to actually take the time to read through those, but I just want to point out that both bots created a character from "a small town in the Midwest."

(Hmm.  Springfield, perhaps?  Kinda crazy either way.)

So, I'm sold on that detail.  Also, Gearhead.  Not bad!  Once again, not great, but not bad, and probably better than Wheels.

Now...time to work out some gaming stats for Gearhead.  Maybe the bots can handle that for me too...

Also, relevant:

Friday, March 31, 2023

Just jotting this down: Musician background for 5E

Cold Slither!  From Joepedia...

Following up on my last post, in which I shared a character with the Musician background...without actually establishing a Musician background to use...

Well, how about this?


Skill Proficiencies:  Performance + your choice of History, Religion, Insight, Perception, Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion

Additional Proficiencies:  Two musical instruments (treat voice as an instrument) OR one musical instrument + [audio equipment or a language of your choice]

Feature:  Always on Tour – You have spent some time traveling and sharing your talent with the world.  You are usually able to negotiate payment of food and lodging in exchange for a performance.  In some areas, and especially among fans of your musical genre, your performance (and often your mere presence) can secure even greater gifts and assistance.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Anthem, G.I. Joe Trooper

Time for me to start putting some actual stats to figures I plan on playing with.  I'll get to make up some characters in the process.  Win win!  Commentary follows.


G.I. Joe Trooper 

Anthony Starr
Code Name:  Anthem
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialty:  Psychological Operations
Rank:  E-5
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Musician *
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
12(+1)    14(+2)    12(+1)    16(+3)    13(+1)    17(+3)
HP 14 (2d10+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +3 melee, +4 ranged
Skills:  Performance, Persuasion, Computers, Perception, Deception
Tools:  Guitar, Audio Equipment, Land Vehicles, Electronics
Languages: English, Spanish
Saves:  Strength, Constitution
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Always on Tour:  Can usually secure food and lodging in exchange for performing.  Sometimes recognized by fans who are willing to provide more assistance in his efforts.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower. **

Specialty:  Communication Interference ***

Anthem spent a few years out of high school as a singer and guitarist for a politically oriented, Washington, DC, based post-hardcore band.  In the midst of questioning the impact he was having on the world, he abruptly decided one day that he needed more structure in his life and enlisted in the Army.

He caught the eye of his commanders by excelling at virtually every test and exercise thrown at him, and when his skill in music and guitar electronics was discovered, Anthem was immediately placed in training under Kenneth Rich (aka Psyche-Out) on a rather mysterious Psy-Ops team residing at his base.  He was recruited to the Joes soon after, taking the moniker of his former band as a code name.

* I don't even really have a specific Musician background design in mind here; just tried to give Anthem an appropriate number of proficiencies and a fitting feature.  Will expand on this soon...?

** I find this very difficult to word appropriately for some reason.

*** Is this a thing?  Not really sure.  Seems like it could be in my Joe universe, though.

Some additional notes...!

The figure for Anthem is a Super7 ReAction Figure, a toy line of which I have grown from enthusiastic observer to have to watch my habits or I'm going to spend too much money on them.

Unfortunately, this is a case where the limited articulation of the retro line hinders it a bit.  I like the look of him holding Psyche-Out's pistol and a radio, but I don't feel as good about him holding the rifle he came with.  Maybe the 5 POA thing will grow on me as I play with them.

Also worth noting...I got this from Entertainment Earth for a really good price as something to tack onto the purchase of a larger item.  EE is apparently known for their commitment to delivering well-packaged items with the toy packaging in great condition...they seem to have trademarked the term Mint Condition Guarantee, for what it's worth.

And I gotta say, based upon this first purchase from them, it looks like they do an excellent job at it.  I almost feel bad that I "took" one in such good condition and opened it up anyway...

All right, until next time...Yo Joe, and enjoy your weekend!